By Rachel Chasin
The Holocaust is remembered at B’nai B’rith International throughout the year. But annually on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), B’nai B’rith holds a program across the country. It’s called “Unto Every Person There is a Name.”
Since 1989, B’nai B’rith has been the North American sponsor of the Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority) program that honors and remembers the victims of the Shoah.
A Yad Vashem database provides a list of Holocaust victims, and participants honor them by reading their names aloud and stating where they were born and died.
Every year, the program has a theme decided by an international committee, and this year’s theme was “Restoring Their Identities: The Fate of the Individual during the Holocaust.” B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider represents B’nai B’rith on this committee.
B’nai B’rith regions and lodges coordinate with synagogues and Jewish community centers across the nation to make “Unto Every Person There is a Name” a part of their Holocaust commemorations. The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington held a remembrance event at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Potomac, Md., where survivor Marsha Tishler told of living in a displaced persons camp. The JCRC of Greater Washington asked those attending to send in additional names they wanted read aloud.
“You look at these lists of names and you see that a whole family has been wiped out. If it weren’t for this program these names wouldn’t be mentioned; there is no family left to remember them—they’re gone, [and this is a way] to remember the victims,” said Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith International vice president of programming and director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity.
Names are often read in conjunction with other remembrance programs—with some events lasting overnight.
B’nai B’rith and Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), a Jewish fraternity, collaborate to bring “Unto Every Person There is a Name” to university campuses as part of AEPi’s own Holocaust Remembrance Day program, called “We Walk to Remember.”
That program began in 2006 at New York University, and, since then, more than 100 campuses across North America, Israel and Europe have participated in this event. AEPi brothers and other volunteers walk silently across their campuses wearing a “Never Forget” sticker provided by B’nai B’rith.
B’nai B’rith also supplies pamphlets to AEPi to distribute, on the importance of Yom Hashoah and how this year’s theme relates to the Holocaust.
“Watching young people take on the responsibility is really very important, because it is getting harder for the survivors. The next generations need to bear witness, to make sure to never forget,” Love said. “They are stepping up.”
The number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling. These programs ensure society remembers the Shoah and the horrors its victims faced.
By Sam Seifman
Last March, 41 teams from the United States and Canada traveled to a bowling alley in suburban Detroit for the 76th annual B’nai B’rith Bowling Association Sectional Tournament. For three days, 164 B’nai B’rith bowlers descended on 300 Bowl, in Waterford, Mich., to compete for high honors in a sport that dates to ancient Egypt.
Archie’s Army, from Detroit, emerged as the winning team. Steve Lotzloff, Ryan Columbus, Jeff Berlin and Eric Goldberg made up the “army.” But the event featured many other impressive players and scores, including a perfect 300 rolled by David Shanbaum and a 299 by Noah Cohen, both also from Detroit.
Howard Waxer, the tournament co-chair and president of the Detroit B’nai B’rith Bowling Association, pronounced it “the best tournament Detroit’s ever held.”
And while the scores certainly count, the number of attendees—the largest in six years—also impressed. Bowlers came from Hamilton, Ontario; Pittsburgh; Rochester, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Mo.; Chicago, New Orleans and Denver.
“It’s cool when you see all these people come from all over,” said Gary Klinger, athletic director of the Great Lakes Region.
Klinger has B’nai B’rith bowling in his blood; his father was not only a bowler himself but the tournament director and league secretary for the bowling association.
The B’nai B’rith Bowling Association, host of the tournament, formed in 1939, became an umbrella organization for leagues across the country. Its first tournament, in 1941, was also in Detroit. Over the years, the association kept growing. At its peak, in the 1960s and 1970s, it had 20,000 bowlers. League dues from across the country have raised thousands of dollars for B’nai B’rith programs, events and even for the organization’s original Washington, D.C., headquarters. Today, the association has 25 leagues in the United States and Canada.
“It all started with a group of guys, bowling in mostly Midwest cities,” said Mark Sperling, executive secretary of the B’nai B’rith Bowling Association since 1979. “They came together for fellowship.”
That fellowship continues, as members come out not only to bowl but also to participate in the annual banquet, where they hear about the state of their association and B’nai B’rith in general.
During the recent banquet, Steve Zorn, co-chair of B’nai B’rith’s Participation Committee, spoke to attendees about better integrating B’nai B’rith bowling with the rest of the organization. Zorn was a league member for 10 years.
“It was a very good experience,” Zorn said. “I bowled on a team with my son and three sons-in-law.”
The location of the next tournament has yet to be decided, but the smart money is on Las Vegas, where it has been held about every four years. If you’d like to find out more about joining a league, please email Howard Waxer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Taylor Schwink
For a week in 2016, I’d wake up, check my email and find it loaded with pictures from the other side of the world. The Japanese government had invited the B'nai B'rith Young Leadership Network to participate in the Kakehashi Project – “Japan’s Friendship Ties.” A group of B’nai B’rith volunteers would be going to build bridges between Japan and the United States. Back at B’nai B’rith International headquarters, I was tasked with posting these marvelous pictures, but not without a smidge of jealousy.
A year later, I was the one taking the pictures. B’nai B’rith was again invited to participate in the Kakehashi Project, and I had the privilege of joining the 12-member delegation from Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New York City, South Florida and Washington D.C., documenting the trip that started in Tokyo, continued on to Hiroshima and Kobe, and returned to Tokyo over the span of a week.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored the trip, and on the first day gave us a crash course in Japanese history and foreign policy. We discussed the famed “Article Nine” of their constitution that renounces “war as a sovereign right of the nation,” troubles with North Korea and views on China.
On the second day, we left behind the boardrooms of the foreign ministry to fly to Hiroshima. The bus from the airport dropped us off in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome, the twisted, surviving structure from America’s bombing of the city on Aug. 6, 1945, hastening the end of World War II.
The entire afternoon was a humbling experience, touring the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park grounds, visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and even speaking with an atomic bomb survivor. The woman we met was a child living on the edge of town and attending school when three B-29 Superfortress bombers flew overhead, one carrying the atomic payload. She described scenes of death and chaos, as no one had any idea what was happening. She thought the sun had fallen out of the sky.
Before leaving on the trip, many people jokingly asked, “Are there Jews in Japan?” When you think of countries with Jewish communities, Japan is certainly not at the top of that list. But there is a small Jewish presence, with two communities located in Tokyo and Kobe. Kobe is a city of immigrants, and the Jews from all parts of the world tie seamlessly into the fabric of a town that comprises every group, from Chinese, Americans and Western Europeans to Indians and Muslims.
In Tokyo, we attended Shabbat services and dinner with a congregation that consisted mostly of American and Canadian expatriates. In a world marred with anti-Semitism, it was fascinating to learn that the Japanese people have no real concept of such discrimination. Throughout the trip, our guides would explain the idea in Japanese for people unfamiliar with
While our Young Leadership delegation toured Japan, the Israeli baseball team was making a run of its own there through the World Baseball Classic. The team won all of its first-round games, setting up a second round date at the Tokyo Dome against Cuba—the same day we were slated to return to America.
Following a friendly and illuminating meeting at the Israeli embassy, we were given tickets to the game, and some delegation members persuaded our guides to rearrange the schedule and reroute the bus. With only hours remaining in the trip, our last stop was to cheer on the Israeli national team—in a game they’d go on to win 4-1. It was an appropriate and exciting end to our trip—one that yielded invaluable knowledge, cultural understanding, friendships, memories—and pictures—to last a lifetime.